I finished all of my Christmas shopping for my aunts and uncles this past Friday at Hempfest. Down a line of endless folding tables was a rainbow-colored spread of state-of-the art weed delivery systems, hand-blown glass, pot brownies made with Swiss chocolate, bacon glazed with Vermont maple syrup and THC, and bongs in the shape of Donald Trump and Barack Obama. There were weed energy drinks, weed soda, weed coffee, weed barbecue sauce, weed rice crispy treats, weed candles, and weed skin cream. But I needed something a bit more milktoast, the kind of gift you usually give your aunts and uncles on Christmas, so I settled for a weed chia pet. It’s like a chia pet, but it’s weed.
Every September since 1995, Boston Common has been booked by the Massachusetts Reform Cannabis Coalition for the Boston Freedom Rally, otherwise known as Hempfest. The event features vendors, live music, food—both plain and with THC—and all of the 18- to 25-year-old males who flock from their mothers’ basements for a day of reddit.com/r/weed in-person meetups.
A cloud hung over the Common, and as my roommate and I got out of the car, locked the car, and crossed the street, we were aware we were leaving the world behind us and entering a carnival where people from across New England gathered to buy tickets to ride hazy roller coasters fueled by THC engines. And just like at a real carnival, it’s best to avoid eye contact with the people operating the rides.
Hempfest was a tale of two types of vendors. There were some who operated tables with bandanas covering their faces like Western bandits peddling cheap made-in-China bongs to naive freshmen. There were some who told me to “get the fucking camera out of here.” Although to be fair, the way we were dressed might have suggested we were filming a segment for Fox News.
But there were also people like Liam Becker, a co-founder of Apis Mercantile, a company that cultivates artisanal honey and then infuses it with CBD. CBD is the no-fun chemical in marijuana that does not cause users to feel high, but has been found to relieve nausea, chronic pain, and anxiety. Becker was eager to talk about his company, and told me how CBD can be used to combat the opioid crisis by serving as an alternative to pain medication.
The distinction between the two types of vendors is partially due to a difference both in what the vendors are doing and what the law is saying. According to Ashley Stallworth, founder of The Rec Book, which educates the public on marijuana laws, there is a gray area in Massachusetts law whereby one individual can technically “gift” another person a dimebag without it being an issue. Some of the vendors who declined to talk to me were running specials like “Buy one T-shirt, get two pre-rolled joints free!”
Even more under-the-table than these vendors were the people who brought family vacation-size rolling coolers full of pre-packaged ziplock bags of bud to gift in exchange for donations. These entrepreneurs pushed their product like newsies selling the latest edition on a street corner in 1930. “Sour Diesel, Gelato, OG, Purple, Lemon Kush, Blackberry Tart, Blueberry Haze!”
And their customers were everyone—fellow dealers, girls looking to spice up their VSCOs, and professional weed businessmen all donated to local artisans. All different walks of life, all under the same hazy cloud covering Hempfest, and all craving Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos from Taco Bell.
Featured Image by Ryan Dombrowski / Heights Contributor